My Top Ten Favorite Books of All Time

Writing a post naming my top ten books was not my idea.  Someone requested it.  I’ve never had a blogging request before.  I’m flattered, but also at a loss.  Off the hundreds of books I’ve read, how can I possibly pick just ten?  I can’t.  Not really.  Once I pick the top ten, I’ll remember something else I read, the book that changed my 16-year-old self, which means something entirely different now that I’m 33, but will always be a part of my soul, my heart.

See, now I’ve gone off the deep end.

Anyway, here’s a tentative list, in no particular order.  It’s hard enough to pick ten, much less rank them.

1.  Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

I’ve read this approximately 273 times.  It’s my “go-to” when I don’t know what to read.  It’s charming, witty, romantic, and is single-handedly responsible for every dissatisfied feeling I’ve had about the man in my life.  (Sorry for that, dear husband.)

2.  See Under: Love by David GrossmanSee Under:  Love by David Grossman

This was my first foray into magical realism and I was enamored by the strangeness and the beauty of it.  It paved the way for Salman Rushdie and Gabriel Garcia Marquez, who, I must confess, I never took to like I did to Grossman.  Maybe it was the new experience or the Holocaust connection–an event as fascinating as it is horrifying.  Whatever it was, See Under: Love gets me right here.  *hand over heart*

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens3.  A Tale Of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

A tale of war, sacrifice, betrayal, and love.  The first book to make me cry.  And that beginning!

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.

Dickens writes a run-on sentence like nobody’s business.

4.  A Summer To Die by Lois Lowry

I read this in fifth grade and never forgot it.  The story of Meg, coming of age as her sister, Molly, is dying from cancer.  No sugar-coating.  It’s grief, jealousy, sex, relationships, and family–all without being vulgar.  I can’t wait until my daughters are old enough to read it.

The History of Love by Nicole Krauss5.  The History of Love by Nicole Krauss

So.  Beautiful.

6.  To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper LeeTo Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

This book is the closest thing to perfection I’ve ever read.  I’m assuming that’s why Harper Lee never wrote another novel.  How could she possibly follow To Kill A Mockingbird?  If she did write another novel and it was as good as (or better than) her first, how could she possibly follow that?   Better to just let it ride.  (Lee did work with Truman Capote on In Cold Blood, a chilling, true account of multiple homicide in Holcomb, Kansas.)

Harry Potter Box Set Paperback by J.K. Rowling7.  Harry Potter (Books 1-7) by J.K. Rowling

Yes, it’s seven books, but it’s one long story.  A magical, endearing, gut-wrenching story.  I especially love reading them one after the other as Rowling’s writing got better and better.  Added bonus?  These books are appropriate for all ages.  I love that.

Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery8.   Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery

Aside from Elizabeth Bennet, Anne (with an e) Shirley is my favorite female character.  She’s delightful.  I read this book to my daughter this summer and it’s one of my most precious memories.  She loved it and I can’t wait to show her the mini-series, aside from that mess of a last movie (where did that story line come from?)

Tess of the d'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy9.  Tess of the d’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy

Hardy is depressing, Fate-obsessed, and “in your face” with this critique of Victorian principles. I wrote a killer research paper on this in college.  Got an A.  It was awesome.  Don’t read Tess, or any Hardy work, for that matter,  if you’re prone to melancholia, .  It’s not happy stuff.

10.  A Moveable Feast By Ernest HemingwayA Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway

Okay, so it’s Memoir.  But, come on, does anyone believe this is the absolute truth?  Of course not.  It is like a sophisticated version of the National Enquirer, combining my greatest pleasures in life–great writing and celebrity gossip.  Hemingway sells out Ezra Pound, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Gertrude Stein (among others) and does it in such a way, the reader, at first, believes he’s a) being completely honest and b) doing it with the best of intentions.  It’s classic Hemingway–drunk, arrogant, and macho–and I adore him for it.  Hemingway knows how to describe food, weather, drink, pleasure, and pain using only the necessary words.  Really, I could have listed any of his books in this slot, but this one is too…delicious. He’s kind of my idol, in a strictly literary sense, of course.

So, there it is.  Ten books (more or less) I consider “The Best.”  I’m already doubting my choices.  How is there no Margaret Atwood on this list?  What’s with all the YA?  Surely, The Oystercatchers by Susan Fletcher deserved a spot?  What about the 20 or so books I haven’t read, sitting on my shelf over there?  The thousands in the library, Barnes and Noble, and the used book store?  What if my absolute favorite book of all time is one of those?

Ah, well.  I’ll think about that next year, after I’ve read them.  Who knows?  This may be it.  These may be the best books I’ve read.  EVER.

Somehow, I doubt it.

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31 thoughts on “My Top Ten Favorite Books of All Time

  1. Hey thanks! I just wanted to get your list because, well we talk about books a lot and I wanted to see if your top books matched any of mine. It’s funny how we both love books so much and most of what we read is so different!

  2. Okay, now you’ve got me thinking about what my top ten are. hhhmmm……. decisions…decisions.
    How to choose?

    1. Jane Eyre — by Charlotte Bronte
    2. Count of Monte Cristo — by Alexander Dumas
    3. Chronicles of Narnia — by C.S. Lewis
    4. Lord of the Rings — by J.R.R. Tolkien
    5. Emma — by Jane Austen
    6. David Copperfield — by Charles Dickens
    7. Kilmeny of the Orchard — by L.M. Montgomery
    8. Eight Cousins — by LM Alcott
    9. Waverley — by Sir Walter Scott
    10. Knock Three Times — by Marion St. John Webb

    I’ll probably change my mind in another 5 minutes! haha!

    • We share a penchant for 18th-19th century literature, I see. I’m making a concerted effort to read more modern works, but it takes some getting used to…

  3. To Kill a mockingbird is definitely in my top ten of all time. Funny story though, the high school I went to banned the book because it conflicted with the values of the community. Seriously.

    I tried to read A Tale of Two Cities, but it seemed Dickens used an over abundant amount of -tion words on the first few pages for my liking. I may have to give him a chance and read some of his stuff eventually. And I am currently reading Jane Eyre, and The Walking Dead comic series.

    Great list though. Will have to check out the ones I haven’t read yet.

    • Just guessing here, but I take it your Southern? Wow. I am, too, but wow.

      “Overabundant” is the exact word I’d use to describe Dickens. I love that about him. Funny, that, since I love Hemingway, who is almost the exact opposite of Dickens. Doesn’t matter. They both tell a good story.

  4. Of my ten favorite momfogs, this is #1, 2, 4, & 6. If you discount the ones in which you made outrageously complimentary comments @ your in-laws (I particularly like the “well-read” and “good piano player” remarks: exquisite use of understatement there), then this is my top four. Beautiful comments, concisely and professionally written, and personal on two levels. By the way, you were spot on (I got thatthat from Psych) @ Tess: I had to up my meds and redo

  5. I always love reading about what other people are reading!
    I recently tried to choose my top ten books to curl up with on a winter’s evening
    http://thethoughtpalette.co.uk/2011/12/05/my-top-10-books-for-a-winters-evening/
    and that has now led me to an outrageous attempt in my 101 in 1001 to try to read the top 100 books – luckily I had already read 69 of them – you might enjoy checking out the list and seeing how many you have read?
    and I am wondering what are you going to read next?!

    • I started the Modern Library’s/Radcliffe’s Top 100 Novels last year. I read a lot of them, but got sidetracked by a dramatic summer. I’m reading The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo series right now. I’m planning on getting back on that list, though. I set a 50 book reading goal for the year. I did that last year, but only got 36. If at first you don’t succeed….

  6. Good choices! I have read most of these too, except I have not read A Moveable Feast. I tried to read Ernest Hemingway a long time ago, and it did not work. Now that I have seen this book on your excellent list, I am going to have to give that book a try.

  7. A Summer To Die. I loved that book!!! That’s the one that has the scene where they scarf down loads of fresh peas just from the garden, right? While she’s all crying and everything?

    • Yes! Nobody ever knows what I’m talking about when I mention this book. I read it for the first time over 20 years ago and I never forgot it. I always looked for it, but couldn’t remember what it was called. All I had was Cancer and the name Molly. Somebody over at Goodreads (What’s the name of that book? forum) found it for me. I read it again and I still think it’s a great book. I love that you remember it, too.

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